Friday 14th of June 2024
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Abu Musa Misinterpreted His Own Report

Abu musa al-ashaari


After the three leaders~ party occupied the City of Bassrah, Ayeshah, Mother of believers, took a further step. She wrote to the leaders of Kufa, informing them that her party had already occupied Bassrah, urging them to avenge the blood of Othman, and discouraging them from supporting the Imam. (1) Of course, she wrote to Abu Musa (the Imam s appointed governor of the city) and asked him to use his influence in preventing the Kufites from sending any recruits to the army of the Imam. Abu Musa did not need anyone to urge him to do that. He was not loyal to the Imam; nor was he a believer in his right.

The messages of the Mother of Believers to the Kufites had their effects. It divided them. Some of them called for the support of the Imam, and some of them called for staying out of the dispute or for supporting the three leaders. Abu Musa spoke to the people repeatedly, warning them and advising them not to enter into any battle for the support of the Imam. He reported to them that he heard the Messenger of God saying: There shall be a faith-testing crisis in which the less participation the better. Then he told them: "Sheath the swords, give refuge to the oppressed until people are united and the cloud of crisis clears up. (2)


Had the Kufites obeyed Abu Musa, the Imam could not have faced the crisis with any considerable strength. He had only a small army when he arrived to the area of Thee-Qar. It is amazing that history did not record that Abu Musa ever criticized the three leaders for invading and occupying Bassrah and pushing people to the Faith- testing crisis which he used to mention so often. Evidently, Abu Musa shared with the three leaders their opinion, and he wanted the Muslims to approve their usurping the authority from the Imam and breaching their covenant with him after they pledged their allegiance to him.

Abu Musa used to report the hadith of the crisis as if he had a special knowledge of it. Yet, the Holy Qur'an declared the following:


"Do the people think that they will be left alone when they say: We have believed', without being tested? Certainly, We have tested generations before them. Thus, God would know the people of truth and the untrue ones. (3)


Abu Musa Misinterpreted His Own Report

It seems that Abu Musa reported a statement he attributed to the Prophet, but he did not understand what it meant. If the Messenger had uttered the words which Abu Musa reported, the Prophet had meant that there will be a devious and confusing movement in the Muslim society, and that the duty of the Muslims will be to discourage its people and to let the people of that innovation down, by denying them any support.

The Messenger did not mean that the good believers should not resist the people of innovation when their movement becomes dangerous to the unity of the nation and when they shed the blood of the Muslims. Otherwise, the Prophet would be calling upon the nation to approve the devious movement and let them succeed in reaching their goal and usurping the power and administering the affairs of the Muslims after they acquire what they seek of power.


Abu Musa Disagreed with the Qur`an

Had Abu Musa understood the words of the Messenger, he would have known that those who entered Bassrah and usurped from the Imam his authority and drove his appointed governor out of Bassrah are the people of the devious movement who should be denied all support. He should have known that when those people divided the Muslims, the duty of the Muslims was to fight them because they are people of invitation to an un-Islamic movement and to a rebellion against the legitimate Imam in whose name Abu Musa was ruling Kufa. Abu Musa reported the hadith which he claimed to have heard from the Prophet and forgot what the Holy Qur'an clearly declared, that the nation is dutybound to fight a Muslim party that commits an aggression against another Islamic party:


"If two parties among the believers fall into a quarrel, make ye peace between them; but if one of them transgresses beyond bounds against the other, then fight the one that transgresses until it complies with the command of God. But if it complies, then make peace between them with justice and be fair. For God loves those who are fair and just. (4)

Abu Musa also forgot another verse which makes it mandatory to obey the Imam and support him:

 "O ye who believe, obey God, and obey His Apostle and the people of authority among you. If ye differ in anything among yourselves, refer it to God and His Apostle, if ye do believe in God and the last Day. That is best and most suitable for finer determination". (5)

This verse makes it mandatory for Abu Musa and every Muslim to obey the Imam.


 Obedience of the leader of the believers is mandatory to every Muslim unless the leader calls upon people to disobey God. The verse also commands that a matter of dispute should be referred to the Book of God and the instruction of the Messenger. The Imam Ali was the leader of the Muslim nation, and he did not invite people to disobey God. He rather called upon them to obey Him. His aim was to unite the Muslims, and the aim of his opponents was to turn people against him and to divide the nation.


Which Faith-testing Crisis?

However, there were many confounding crises that took place in the history of Islam before the election of the Imam and after his departure from this world. The Prophet, in the statement which Abu Musa attributed to him did not name that crisis. How did Abu Musa know that the crisis which the Prophet meant was the crisis which took place during the days of the Imam's reign?

It is not reported that the Prophet ordered Ali to be inactive in the face of confounding crises which were to take place during the days of his reign. On the contrary, he commanded him to fight and commanded the believers to follow him. Al-Hakim in his Mustadrak (part 3, page 139) recorded that Abu Ayyoub Al-.Ansari reported during the days of Omar that the Messenger ordered Ali to fight the breachers (of the pact of allegiance), the Unjust party, and the Seceders' party; and that Abu Ayyoub asked the Messenger, saying: "With whom shall we fight these parties? The Messenger replied: "With Ali Ibn Abu Talib. Al-Hakim recorded also that Abu Sa-eed Al-Khidri reported that the Messenger of God said that Ali shall fight for the interpretation of the Holy Qur'an as I fought for its revelation.


Abu Musa Appointed Himself a Counselor to the Nation and the Imam

His words indicate clearly that he accused the Imam of being a partner in the confounding crisis about which he spoke. His words indicate also that he accused the Imam with either the lack of knowledge of the instructions of the Messenger or disobedience of the Prophet's instructions, or with both lack of knowledge and disobedience. Yet the Messenger said: "I am the city of knowledge and Ali is the gate of that city; whoever wishes to enter the city, should come through its gate". (6)

Abu Musa Persisted in His Error

It may be said that Abu Musa was following Abdullah Ibn Omar whom he used to love and whom he recommended for leadership. Abdullah Ibn Omar stood neutral in the dispute between Ali and his opponents. He did not support the truth. Nor did he fight the untruth. But then he found himself failing to follow the Book of God. Therefore, he repented and changed his attitude towards Ali. Al-Hakim recorded in his Al-Mustadrak through his channel to Al-Zuhri who reported that Hamzah said the following:

"While he (Hamzah) was sitting with Abdullah Ibn Omar a man from Iraq came to Ibn Omar. He said: Abu Abdul-Rahman (a code name of lbn Omar), by God, I have been seriously trying to follow you and take an attitude similar to yours towards the division of the nation and be neutral as far as I could. Yet, I have read a verse from the Holy Qur'an which occupied my mind, and I would like you to inform me about it. I mean the Word of God: If two parties among the believers fall into a quarrel, make ye peace between them; if one of them transgresses beyond bounds against the other, then fight ye (all) against the one that transgresses until it complies with the command of God. But if it complies, then make peace between them with justice, and be fair. For God loves those who are fair and just.'

"Please inform me how to comply with this verse. Abdullah said: You have nothing to do with this. Go away.' The man left and when he disappeared, Abdullah turned to us saying: I never found in my heart something as I felt about this verse, that I did not fight the aggressor party as God commanded me to do". (7)

Al-Hakim commented on this report, saying: "This is an important hadith reported by many outstanding tabi-is (good religious scholars who did not witness the Prophet and took their knowledge from his companions). I have chosen the channel of Shu-aib Ibn Abu Hamzah to Al-Zuhri because the two Sheikhs (Al Bukhari and Muslim) used this channel which indicated that this is truly authentic.

Thus, Abdullah Ibn Omar repented for his wrong stand in the quarrel between Ali and his opponents, but Abu Musa did not repent.


Abu Musa Did Not Distinguish Between Hadith and Qur`an


However, I am not confident that Abu Musa conveyed the statement of the Messenger as the Messenger pronounced it. And we find that Abu Musa reported to the people of Bassrah when he was tbe~r governor something contrary to the truth and denied it all Muslims. Muslim in his Sahih reported the following:

"Abu Musa Al-Ashaarj summoned the readers of Bassrah. Three hundred readers of the Holy Qur'an came to him. He said to them: "You are the righteous men of Bassrah and the readers of the Qur'an. Let not the passage of time make you forget the truth. Thus, your hearts will be hardened. We used to read a chapter similar to the chapter of Bara-ah in length and seriousness, and I have forgotten it. However, I remember of that chapter only the following verse:

"Should Ibn Adam acquire two valleys full of money, he would seek a third valley. And the abdomen of Ibn Adam would not be filled but by soil".'

"And we used to read a chapter which was similar to the chapters which are begun with the word: "Sabbaha, and I have forgotten it. I remember of it only the following: "O you who believe, why do you say what you do not do? Testimony will be written on your necks, then you would be questioned about it on the Day of Judgment. (8)

The words which Abu Musa reported are certainly not from the Holy Qur'an; nor do they resemble the Qur anic words in the least. The best guess is that Abu Musa was disturbed in his thinking, unable sometimes to distinguish between the Qur'an and the hadith. And when he reported a hadith, he was not accurate nor could he understand it.

I believe that Abu Musa was a part of the conspiracy of Talhah, Al-Zubejr, Ayeshah, and Muaweyah Ibn Abu Sufyan. He was trying his best to destroy the caliphate of the Imam. Had he succeeded in convincing the Kufites to sit and refrain from supporting the Imam, the reign of the Imam would have ended in the first year after his election. It is obvious that the Imam did not trust Abu Musa, and that he knew his negative attitude towards the members of the House of the Prophet in general and towards him in particular.When the Imam was elected, he sent Imarah Ibn Shihab, one of the companions, as a governor of Kufa to replace Abu Musa. But Imarah came back to Medina after Tulaihah Ibn Khuwailid threatened him before his arrival to Kufa… (9) (During the short period that took place after the death of Othman, there was no security for people.) The Imam then kept Abu Musa upon the request of Al-Ashtar. Abu Musa was a Yemenite and most of the Kufites were Yemenites.

The Imam sent Muhammad Ibn Abu Bakr and Muhammad Ibn Jaafar to the Kufites, asking them to join him in his journey to Bassrah and to be supporters and helpers to the religion of God. He told them also that he wanted to bring peace and reunite the nation. The two messengers did not succeed, and the attitude of Abu Musa was the biggest obstacle in the way of their mission.

When they challenged him, he spoke his mind saying: "By God, your man and I still owe allegiance to Othman. If fighting is inevitable, then we should not fight anyone until we finish the killers of Othman wherever they may be. (10)

Thus, Abu Musa believed that he owed allegiance to Othman even after Othman died, but he did not believe that he owed any loyalty or obedience to the living Imam, and that he did not have to respond to his call. He believed that if the fight is necessary, they had to fight the killers of Othman. But the three leaders who were the first to call for the murder of Othman should not be fought even if they usurp the authority of the Imam in Bassrah, and people should not challenge them.

Abu Musa spoke his mind also on another occasion when Abd Kheir Al-Haiwani said to him: "Did Talhah and Al-Zubeir not give Ali a pledge of Allegiance? When Abu Musa replied in the affirmative, Abd Kheir asked him: "Did Ali commit any wrong-doing which allows the two companions to breach their covenant with him? Abu Musa replied: "I do not know. Abd Kheir said: "We leave you until you know. (11) He took this attitude in order to preserve for the three leaders their gains against the Imam. Had he spoken the truth, he would have admitted that the two companions had breached their covenant with the Imam without any justification. But this would damage his interest and their interest. It is also reported that the two messengers sent Hashim Ibn Utbah Ibn Abu Waqass to the Imam to inform him of what took place. The messenger returned to Thee Qar where the Imam was and informed him of what had taken place.


The Key to the Solution

 It became clear to the Imam that Abu Musa was the biggest obstacle and that his dismissal is the key to the solution of the problem. The Imam could not lead a respectable army as long as the Kufites listened to Abu Musa. Therefore, he sent to him a letter with Hashim Ibn Utbah, saying to him:' Send people to me. I did not appoint you governor except to have you as my assistant for establishing the truth. Abu Musa refused to do so and Hashim wrote to the Imam the following: "I have come to a man who is a radical disputer, open in hatred. The Imam sent Al-Hassan and Ammar Ibn Yasir to urge people to join the Imam. He wrote to Abu Musa: "I have sent Qurthah Ibn Kaab as governor of Kufa. Leave your post, blamed and defeated. If you defy him and he prevails against you, I commanded him to execute you. Abu Musa left his post and Al-Hassan and Ammar went on in their mission and people of Kufa responded to their call. (12)

It is reported also that Abu Musa did not leave his post and persisted in his defiance until Al-Ashtar joined AlHassan and Ammar because he felt that he was responsible for keeping Abu Musa in his post when he requested the Imam to keep him in that post. When Abu Musa unveiled his malicious intentions, Al-Ashtar said to the Imam: "Ameer Al-Mumineefl, may God honor you with your permission, I would like to join them (Al-Hassan and Ammar) I believe that the Kufites are very obedient to me. If I go there, I hope that none of them will disagree with me. The Imam honored his request. He went there and called upon everyone he met to join him in his march on the mansion of the governor. He entered the mansion with a large group while Abu Musa was standing at the main mosque speaking to his audience, discouraging them from supporting the Imam, and reporting to them what he claimed to have heard from the Prophet concerning the confounding crisis, and that the one who does not participate is better than the one who does. Ammar Ibn Yasir was responding to him by saying: The Messenger of God told only you that not taking part in it is better than your participation. Then Ammar said: God prevails against those who try to fight Him.

The servants of Abu Musa came running to the mosque saying: Abu Musa, Al-Ashtar entered the mansion, beat us up and drove us out. When Abu Musa came down and entered the mansion, Al-Ashtar shouted: "Get out of our mansion. May God get your soul out of your body. By God, you are of the early hypocrites. Abu Musa said: Give me a respite only this evening. Al-Ashtar granted him that, saying: You will not stay tonight at the mansion. People entered into the mansion, trying to loot Abu Musa's belongings, but Al-Ashtar prevented them, saying: I granted him my protection. (13)

Thus, the Imam needed to use force in order to remove Abu Musa from his post because Abu Musa was not like the rest of the appointed officials. He was a conspirator against the Imam disguised as his appointed governor.

Had he been really scrupulous about war and blood shedding, he should have sided with the Imam because the Imam was still far from entering a battle. He was seeking peace and unity, while the three leaders had already shed a great deal of blood. Abu Musa approved what the three leaders did and tried anxiously to preserve for them their bloody gains by urging people of Kufa not to join the Imam. Yet, the Imam was asking people to come to him in order to assist him if he is right and to correct him if he is wrong.

Thus, we can easily conclude that Abu Musa was not a man of peace, or against war. He was rather against the Imam, collaborating with his enemies. The Imam was trying to prevent war, while the three whom Abu Musa was trying to protect, had already started their bloody battle before the Imam' s arrival to Thee Qar. Of the words which the Imam said to the people of Kufa when they met him at Thee Qar are the following:

"I have invited you to witness with us the behavior of our brothers in Bassrah. If they change their attitude, this is what we want. If they persist in their wrong way, we shall not agree with them, but we shall try peaceful avenues, preferring them to the avenue of war (unless they force it upon us). There is no power but that of God". (14)

I have given Abu Musa this lengthy discussion because his hostile stand toward the Imam was a factor in shaping the events of that period. He performed a very dangerous role whose consequences were detrimental to the Muslim World.

Finally, a group of Kufites (numbering twelve thousand) came to join the Imam. Al-Tabari, Ibn Al-Atheer, and other historians along with a number of hadith recorders reported that the Imam said before the arrival of the Kufites Twelve thousand and one men will come to you from Kufa. Abu Al-Tufail, a companion, who reported this hadity said: "I stood at Thee Qar, counting those men. I found them to be twelve thousand and one men.(15)

Kufa was able to send to the Imam tens of thousands of its men if it were not for the stand of Abu Musa and the messages of Ayeshah. Her religious place, and the place of Talhah and Al-Zubeir in the minds of the Muslims were factors in discouraging the Kufites from joining the camp of the Imam. When the Imam neared Bassrah, a group from Abdul Qeise joined him. (16) And after all that, the Imam's army did not exceed twenty thousand, while the three leaders' army according to estimates was a minimum of thirty thousand. (17)



1. Al-Tabari, his History, part 4, p. 480.

2. Ibn Al-Atheer, A1-Kamil, part 3, p. 116.

3. The Holy Qur'an, chapter 29, verses 2-3.

4. The Holy Qur'an, chapter 49, verse 9.

5. The Holy Qur'an, chapter 4, verse 58.

6. A1-Hakirn, Al-Mustadrak, part 3, p. 127.

7. Al-Hakim,Al-Mustadrak, part 3, p. 115.

8. Muslim, Sahih Muslim, part 7 (Book of Zakat), p. 139-140.

 9. Ibn Al-Atheer,Al-Kamil, part 3, p. 103.

10. Al-Tabari, his History, part 4, p. 482.

11. Al-Tabari, his History, part 4, p. 486.

12. Al-Tabari, his History, part 4, pp. 499-500.

13. Al-Tabari, his History, part 4, pp. 486-487.

14. Ibn Al-Atheer, Al-Kamil, part3,p. 118.

 34. A1-Tabari, his History, part 4, p. 500, and p. 501 and p. 505 in sequel.

35. A1-Tabari, his History, part 4, pp. 500-501, and p. 505 in sequel.

36. Al-Tabari, his History, part 4, pp. 500-501, and p. 505 in sequel.

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